Thursday, December 14, 2006

Links, posts, archives

All third party websites referred to in word form, not as quick-links, pending learning more about issues raised at Direct linking may be risky.

Post dates show the itinerary chronology - from arrival, to departure. Do read the Archives - they show the continuing trip, not necessarily earlier posts. A new or revised post may appear at the beginning, to draw attention to it, but the plan is to incorporate it later elsewhere, if the post fits better there.

Technorati Profile

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Romanian Heroes - identify as you go

Identifying royalty, crown by sceptre by turban.
Which is this?

With the history of this area so new to the West, we recommend two steps: 1) Take a little history book - we had "Romania, An Illustrated History" by Nicolae Klepper, Hippocrene Books NY 2002. and 2) Start a list of names and dates and distinguishing features as you see the statues. Note the crown or headdress styles. I am not confident in the "images" internet search method - too many other people confused. No controls.

We saw recurrent people, identifiable by their headdresses or features. Much revered. A basic chronology:

1. Basarab I, Prince of Wallachia 1310-1352.

He unified Wallachia, from the Carpathian Mountains to the Danube River, and the Black Sea, including a part now the separate country of Moldova, and defied the Hungarians who controlled much else by refusing tribute. He defeated the Hungarians in a mountain pass area, and fended off the Tatars who controlled the region of Moldavia in the east.

2. John Hunyadi - 1441-1446, Transylvania - Hungarian-appointed voievod (name for ruler). A/k/a/ Janos Hunyadi, Iancu de Hundeoara. See his castle here. Like governor. Great military leader, many victories on behalf of King Sigismund of Hungary. Became governor of Hungary for a while.

3. Matthias Corvinus - statue in Cluj Napoca. King of Hungary and son-in-law of John Hunyadi. Arrested Vlad III Dracula, imprisoned him.

4. Mircea the Old - Wallachia - 1386-1395, and 1397-1418 Bucharest

5. Vlad Dracul - Wallachia province. 1436-1442, 1443-1447 -

Father of Vlad III Dracula. Dracul meant Dragon. He was bestowed with the Order of the Dragon, a crusading order (award in Nuremberg), so was known as Vlad Dracul or Vlad the Dragon. Later assassinated by John Hunyadi, of Hungary. See Hunedoara post here.

6. Vlad III Dracula - Wallachia province. 1448. 1456-1462 and 1476.

Dracula-son of Dracul. Attacked Turkish forces. On-again-off-again support from Hungarians, obtained throne, then killed in battle against them. Had become known as Vlad Tepes, Vlad the Impaler.

7. Stephen the Great - 1457-1504. In Moldavia province.

Cousin of Vlad III Dracula. King, fought Turks. Commissioned many monasteries. After a victory, shot an arrow off a hill and sited the next monastery there.

8. Michael the Brave - 1593-1601.

See turban-type shaped (not wound) headdress, feather, large, sloping bulbous to the leftStatue in Cluj, a historical hero, rides high in the city park here. See photo album at Overcame Turks.

9. Mattei Basarab - 1632-1654, Wallachia. Turban style headdress in shape, but floppy hat style, not wound.

10. Basil the Wolf, Moldavia 1634-1653

Friday, September 29, 2006

A Tortured Past. Eras and Uses.

Poinari Citadel
Ottoman Invasions of Romania

Vlad Tepes III engaged in torture, according to traditions of his time where brutality and impalement were not uncommon -- and to preserve law and order.  His subjects were grateful, as he fended off the invading Ottomans.  He still is recalled with respect. See biography: at  His form of impalement was the Persian, through-the chest-breastbone area, judging from the woodcuts. See, if you must,

That worked for about 40 years. Still, his tactics did not last. The drastic measures just gave a reprieve until the Turks regrouped and came again. See Romania Road Ways

Needed now:

Put the history of Romania and its reputation for torture and political repression in perspective. What uses do cultures make of pain, by whom, against whom, and why. Are we so far removed.   Is impersonal use of agent orange, or napalm, any more moral than impalement just because the victims of napalm are, or become faceless; and impalement is highly personal. Extreme interrogations: are those so much verbiage for torture but on an individual level -- any less worse?

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Barsana Monastery and towering steeples

Barsana Monastery, Barsana, Romania

Romania boasts many monasteries, with each style representing a historical period with its invasions and need for defense, and culture group differences.

In Maramures as elsewhere, many monasteries and churches are unpainted wood, see Barsana at, with stratospheric spires. The timbers are massive. Surrounding forests are being deforested (is the government overseeing anybody? reseeding?)

Monastery near Barsana, post and beam construction, Romania

In another monastery, under construction near Sapanta, we were able to climb up. Here is one outside staircase to the interior. The basic construction was post and beam.

Instead of a railing, the circular stair around the main post has figure-like flat guards on each step, far more practical than carving out a rounded rail.

Horezu Monastery

Horezu Monastery

 Horezu Monastery, Romania

This monastery was established in 1690 by the ruler Prince Constantine Brancoveanu, and is a World Heritage site. See Horezu at The style with a two-tiered gallery is called Post-Byzantine Art Synthesis, aulic art, see

The monastery complex is in active use. Here, an elderly monk. Sometimes the facades at monasteries are similar, but I recall that this was also at Horezu.

Monk, Horezu Monastery, Romania

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Moldova, Moldavia - Romania until 1991

A country's history is also known by its borders. Some of a country's turmoils are rooted in forced border changes, or voluntary migrations, and many other factors. Look at a map, and you will see a tiny country bordering Romania, called Moldova, or Moldavia. This country was an independent state beginning in the early 1500's, but was ruled for centuries by Romania as part of "Bessarabia." It then became part of Romania in 1918, and again independent in 1991, and in that period, was also a small state in the former USSR.

See the e-museum site of The University of Minnesota at Mankato, MN,
offers a full-service museum-type website at This gives a good introduction to the history, cultures and archeology of the area.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Mogosoia Palace: Lenin, toppled; elsewhere, revered

Mogosoia Palace - 1698-1702
Statue of Lenin

Lenin statue, toppled, Mogosoia Palace, near Bucharest, Romania

Mogosoia Palace is not far from Bucharest. Enjoy the grounds before heading into the traffic. It dates from the 1600's at its earliest parts. See

For us, the lure was the statue of Lenin, pulled off its pedestal in Bucharest and ignominiously dumped behind the kitchens here.

The complex shows Byzantine elements, and the style known as "Brancovenesc" after the Voivode, local ruler of Wallachia who built it, or as he is known more simply, Brancovan.  There are combined balconies, arcades, staircases all over, balconies Greek columns, and Renaissance and Baroque - all in one setting. See  Brancovan offended the Ottoman overlord, however, and lost his head. As with Vlad Tepes, it was not uncommon to keep the head and return it without the body, as Brancovan's wife did,

The Palace became a high-level caravanserai, or "han", with space for passing caravans to enter a protected area for the night of a few days,  See the history of hans at

Mogosoia was renovated in the 1800's by an aristocratic family, then followed a series of patrons, owners, literary and cultural uses. It became a salon, and now is in a holding pattern, the lake silting over, the views muted.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Travel Tips. Driving. Sharing the road; hints and cautions

Driving in Romania

Horse cart, Romania

1.  Sharing the road.

Expect to share it with horse carts, ox carts. The transportation for rural people in the east is animal, and animals also do the plow/farm work.

 I understand that a law now prevents the horse carts from the major roads.  How do rural poor people now get around?

Horse carts are everywhere but the high mountain passes.  Towns, cities, countryside. also in the towns and cities. Does the prohibition further marginalize the poor, without providing an alternative.

In the industrialized west, there were tractors pulling the wagons of produce and hay - it was 10 days, however, in  Romania before we moved out of the agricultural east and center, and saw a tractor.

Oxen are usually not on the major roads. We were there at harvest time, October, so the loads on wagons were huge.

Ox team wagon, Romania

2.  Driving rules

See Romanian driving rules at  The car of choice is the practical Dacia. See it new at, and old everywhere else. They go with duct tape and fit a dozen people at once. The Dacians occupied Romanian land in the time of the ancient Greeks and Romans, see

The Roman Emperor Trajan finally conquered this powerful kingdom in about 105 AD -- that late, and after fierce warfare.  See Dacian culture at YouTube,

Check the US government info on any country where you plan to drive. For example, go to The Romanian tourism people are also helpful. See

Afterpost- 1/2/07 - with Romania now in the European Union, what will change? Not sure.

I saw no accidents. People are courteous, but go very fast. Just watch for everyone else on the road, on foot or with animals, and pass fast in and out yourself. Other drivers will slide over and make room, I found. There are people carrying firewood and other necessaries on their backs on the roads. We just went slow and did fine, even on back roads.

Avoid night driving. If dark comes upon you, creep. All bets are off. The horsecarts and some of the older cars do not have lights or reflectors. Fog settled in one day (very fitting - at the Hotel Castel Dracula, Transylvania, east of Bistrita at Piatra Fantanele). We stayed at the hotel, reading and chatting until noon, as did most everyone else.

Drive on the right. Drivers are on the right side of the road, and very skillful.

1.  Driving in Romania

It is easy to drive in Romania.  Their alphabet is Roman, as ours, so names are easy to read, easy to find.  Roads may end unexpectedly, so build in extra time for the turn around and finding another way.

Passing. In passing, the customs are different.
The passer tailgates. The slower vehicle immediately pulls over halfway on the burm or as far as possible. The passer whizzes out over half the center line, looks, then keeps whizzing past or pulls back in. The slower one meanwhile leaves plenty of room. The passer seldom has to go entirely into the oncoming traffic lane -- I did not see one accident caused by passing. I only saw one fenderbender in a town, a usual rearender.

Roundabouts. Most sites on driving in Romania are alarmist. Not so. Just keep going around the roundabout until you can slither off, and watch who is ahead and beside you first, then look behind.

Dogs. Watch out for the stray dogs. They are quick, but all over. Some estimates are 2,000,000. Just go slow, and keep your hands in your pockets. The situation is tragic. Dog hell, says this site : Dog hell. Horrible to read about, but if you are going there, you will see them. During a Ceaucescu relocation period when entire neighborhoods parts of great cities were being torn down and enormous public buildings put up, the government did not permit people to take their pets. So they were set loose, many survived and are all over as feral cockers and feral pekingese and everything else huge and little. No neutering program until too late. Now the government is just trying to get rid of them. Many beautiful dogs there, many sick. Many. I did not see dogs run over, though. Drivers are careful. But the news accounts say worse, things a passer-by does not see.